The City as Canvas exhibition first went up at the Museum of the City of New York in 2014. A large portion of the exhibit is of work that Martin Wong collected in the late 1980s and 1990s while living in New York, including graffiti artists’ black books of sketches and a series of photographs from subway trains around the city (more on the backstory including how Wong built his collection by paying graffiti artists for their work can be is here).
I am glad that this exhibition was in Indianapolis. Today is its last day at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. I have to say that first before I pronounce on how it produces the sense of New York and graffitied New York as a strange and foreign culture where the natives did things like (gasp) spray paint on public property. They even had a display of graffiti vocabulary to drive home the “look at the strange natives” vibe. Growing up in Philadelphia in the 80s and the 90s, I find graffitied cities to be the backdrop of city life. I remember starting to recognize tags and seeing how much certain artists got around town, and thinking, it was like a secret code, because it was. Read more